Sodexo Stops Hunger

What Really Matters

By Phyll Dondis Ribakoff, RD, LDN
January 8th, 2013

Phyll Dondis Ribakoff, RD, LDN

I have been involved with Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters® courses since 2005, when, initially it was called “Operation Frontline.” Recently, I taught my 18th series for the course, and with each class of students I learn something new.

Cooking Matters taps the expertise of culinary and nutrition experts who volunteer to help course participants identify and prepare nutritious, low-cost ingredients in ways that deliver the best nourishment. Last June I was recognized by Sodexo Foundation as one of five  Heroes of Everyday Life® specifically for my work volunteering as a nutrition instructor with Cooking Matters Massachusetts.  

It’s difficult to describe what that meant to me. I felt so honored to be nominated by my supervisor, the National Director of Sodexo Dietetic Internships and the Massachusetts director of Cooking Matters. Together they confirmed my passion and demonstrated Sodexo’s commitment to frontline volunteering in the campaign against hunger.  The recognition meant a lot to me. 

One of the reasons that Cooking Matters is so important to me is because of the very positive and practical impact it allows me to have on the people in my community. Each class series is led by a nutritionist or dietitian and chef providing nutrition education and hands-on cooking lessons.  

Phyll Ribakoff teaching Cooking Matters class. Photo courtesy of Share Our Strength Cooking Matters Program

My favorite class takes place during week four, where we cover the importance of breakfasts. The Chef shows the participants how to create a vegetable frittata, carrot pineapple muffins or oatmeal pancakes, and smoothies.  This is also the time when we cover unit pricing in anticipation of the following week’s supermarket tour. By this time in the 6-week series, the participants know the staff and each other and they really start to enjoy cooking and talking nutrition together.  By now, all of the participants have an opinion, questions or both.  In fact, at this point they are answering more than they are asking, and they are teaching one another.

A participant once said that Cooking Matters made her miss home because she lives alone here in the U.S., but came from a large family where everyone was always in the kitchen. Once a week, our work made her feel like part of a big happy family in the kitchen.  For her, the course was not only about finding affordable nutrition strategies. To her what really matters is the connection between the food and the people – using it to bond, support and help one another. I’m proud to say that Sodexo sees the value in that connection as well, and all of the volunteer work that its employees do to provide communities with access to nutritious food.

Sodexo Foundation honored me for my work with Cooking Matters and presented me with a $5000 grant to benefit the hunger-relief agency of my choice.  I designated Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters of Massachusetts as the recipient of those funds.

I hope other Sodexo managers, and frontline workers will do what my supervisor did for me.  Nominate a Sodexo employee who is working to end hunger as a Hero. Self-nominations from employees are perfectly acceptable as well.

The 2013 Heroes of Everyday Life® nomination period is open now through March 8 on

Phyll Dondis Ribakoff, RD, LDN is the associate director of the Sodexo Distance Education Dietetic Internship and a 2012 Hero of Everyday Life.  Check out the Cooking Matters videos that Hero Phyll stars in:

Sodexo & Share Our Strength: Serving Communities and Empowering Youth to End Childhood Hunger

By Steve Dunmore
December 18th, 2012

Steve Dunmore

A Sodexo manager once shared a story about a boy who would come by the school cafeteria at closing time every Friday afternoon to ask if there was any leftover food he could take home. The manager gave him what he could, and he would stuff the food in his backpack. The manager eventually learned that the boy was asking for the food to help feed his younger brother and sister who had no source of good nutrition during the weekend.

The manager then approached teachers, staff and administrators in the school district to share this story and soon realized that there were many other kids in the exact same situation as this boy, but they were largely anonymous because they did not have the courage to ask for help.  This inspired our manager to take action by pulling the combined resources of Sodexo, the school district and the community to establish a formal backpack weekend feeding program that would ultimately help all district students in need of hunger assistance.

The power of that example stayed with me and I realize that we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the communities we serve by taking advantage of the resources and partnerships we foster as a company. It’s about empowering our own teams and others with a strategy to give back, but within their means – where they live and work. That’s something that the outstanding hunger organization Share Our Strength excels at as well.

No Kid Hungry

In my role as president for Sodexo’s K-12 segment, I am constantly amazed by the power of students who recognize a need among their peers and then rally to see it met. I find Schools for No Hungry Kid, and its new turn-key program, No Kid Hungry, Every Kid Healthy, very exciting because not only is it an excellent vehicle for instilling the critical nutrition and wellness habits that students need to ensure growth and academic performance, but it also takes advantage of the natural instinct inside children to help their peers by promoting activities for students that help raise funds for other children who are less fortunate, but equally deserving of fair access to nutritious meals. Students get to choose one or more “Every Kid Healthy” activities during the program and they collect monetary pledges from friends, family and neighbors – all of which goes to help end childhood hunger in America.

Sodexo understands the importance of engaging students to support other students and we incorporate that approach into our own work creating healthy learning environments that support student achievement at school districts nationwide. For example, Sodexo partnered with Chef Remmi, a 12-year-old student in Oklahoma, by naming her Sodexo’s official student ambassador to nutrition and wellness. Chef Remmi helps reinforce Sodexo’s positive nutrition message through videos, appearances and marketing materials that get kids excited about healthy eating.

In addition to our peer-to-peer education approach, I am also very proud of the many ways our K-12 teams across the country work to fight childhood hunger. Whether at one-off events like Sodexo employees from Detroit Public Schools supporting the work of a regional food bank at a local Radiothon or through annual programs like our Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarships, we support the communities we serve just like the way that Schools for No Kid Hungry and No Kid Hungry, Every Kid Healthy mobilize youth to create innovative solutions to childhood hunger.

I encourage everyone reading this to learn as much as they can about the need for hunger assistance in their own community and to get involved by volunteering, collecting, donating or supporting groups like Share Our Strength. To learn more about Schools for No Hungry Kid and to find out how you can help fight childhood hunger, visit:

Stephen Dunmore is president for the Schools segment at Sodexo, overseeing the work of teams at nearly 500 K-12 partner organizations nationwide.

Closing the Meal Gap

By Lauren Brayer
December 6th, 2012

Lauren Brayer

Some would say that working so closely to an issue like childhood hunger can wear on the soul after a while – slowly eating away at the heart with overwhelming images of enduring need. That’s not my view. I see myself as lucky…. lucky to make the acquaintance of so many individuals and businesses that choose to be a part of the solution.

Take for example the 21 million children who returned to school this fall and are receiving free and reduced-price meals — regular, nutritious meals that they can depend on without fail during school days.

Were it not for the dedication of countless individuals, when schools close for holidays, weekends or summer breaks, many of these kids find themselves at risk of hunger.

I’m fortunate enough to work with so many of these dedicated individuals every day in the course of my work with Sodexo Foundation.

Sodexo volunteers Shondra, Lauren (center), Sam, and Necole volunteering in Washington, DC at the Capital Area Food Bank, a Feeding Our Future® participant.

They are the driving force behind successful programs like Feeding Our Future®, which helps children get the nutritious meals they need during the summer months so they’re ready to learn when they return to school.

Feeding Our Future® entered its 16th year this summer, with a presence in 24 U.S. cities, providing 400,000 nutritious meals. Since its inception, the program has provided nearly 3.4 million meals to children nationwide.

Feeding Our Future is impactful due to the many volunteers who donate time and resources. They are community leaders, Sodexo employees, clients and customers and 26 vendor partners, including key donors like The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Sysco and The Schwan Food Company, who along with Sodexo Foundation implement the program across the country.

A Sodexo Foundation - Feeding Our Future® event in Atlanta, Georgia.

I know I’m not alone in balancing the severity of the need and gratitude for those willing to fill it. The following note was shared with me by a Feeding Our Future volunteer about an experience  in Indianapolis:

Sodexo’s Feeding Our Future program was a blessing to Indianapolis children every day during the summer. A team of volunteers separated and bagged the lunches to give out. Upon our arrival, children were standing outside waiting for the lunches. We gave out 100 lunches in the first 15 minutes. And, all the lunches were gone after 25 minutes.  The heartbreak was every day like clockwork – children would come up and say, “Are all the meals gone already?”  This would bring tears to my eyes. However, we are so grateful to Sodexo for the many children that did receive meals each day. — Toni Bunch, Precious Gifts Visionaries Childcare, Indiana

A Sodexo Foundation - Feeding Our Future® event in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

As a direct result of Feeding Our Future, Sodexo was honored with the Children Are Reason for Excellence service award this September by the Boys and Girls Clubs Tennessee Area Council for the contributions it makes to improve the quality of life for at-risk youth in Tennessee.

Recognition like that comes from the work of a lot of caring people. I’m so lucky to know them.

Lauren Brayer is a program manager at Sodexo and manages Feeding Our Future and other U.S. STOP Hunger initiatives at Sodexo. Visit for more information.

Stopping Hunger Has No Age Limits

By Joshua Williams
November 26th, 2012

Joshua Williams

Right around this time, just a little more than two years ago, I was doing exactly what I hope a lot of young people are doing right now… applying for the Stephen J Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship.

Along with four other students, I was lucky enough to be selected as one of its national scholarship recipients for the volunteer work that I do to fight hunger. That recognition included a $5,000 grant for my education and a great trip to Washington, DC for me and two other guests! That was all great, but it wasn’t just about what I would get out of it. It was really about what I would be able to give… or actually, continue to give.

Being recognized as a Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient also meant a $5,000 grant from Sodexo Foundation to my own non-profit, Joshua’s Heart Foundation. That funding helped my organization assist a lot more people and it has grown larger since I received the scholarship. Joshua’s Heart has a mission to “Stomp Out Hunger” by providing basic necessities, such as food and other grocery products, and by effectively engaging and educating communities.

Joshua Williams working the donations area of his non-profit. To learn more about the scholarship, click on the photograph.

The amount of food that we have given out from the time I received the grant until now has nearly doubled. It was 250,000 lbs. before the grant, compared to the 400,000 lbs. we now distribute. We also had a large increase in volunteers since the recognition, especially with youth.

The added visibility from being named a STOP Hunger scholar also led to a number of other opportunities. In 2011 Walmart awarded Joshua’s Heart a grant of $20,000 to start our backpack program through its 12 Days of Giving campaign. In addition we are now partners with Whole Foods Markets, which sponsors our cooking demonstration that teaches families how to eat a healthy yet delicious meal. Most recently, I was honored to be presented with the Champions of Change award by the White House.

I am proud to say I was a Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholar in 2010. The award is by far one of my favorite and most helpful recognitions presented to Joshua’s Heart. It raised great awareness about our work and it proves that you’re never too young to make a difference. I hope these words inspire another young person to apply, just like I did. It could lead to some amazing opportunities for you and the communities you serve.

Joshua Williams is a 2010 Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient and the founder of Joshua’s Heart Foundation. He also is a middle school student at Ransom Everglades School in Miami, Florida.

Young Champions

By Peyton Medick
November 12th, 2012

Peyton Medick

For so many reasons 2012 has been AMAZING. Participating as an Olympic torch bearer was certainly among my top highlights, but another had to do with my work to fight hunger. It’s a cause that has been important to me even before creating my non-profit, Peyton’s Promise, which started as a simple food drive.

Thanks to Sodexo Foundation, I had the honor of being named a 2012 Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient this summer.  I was honored and humbled to be put in the same category as so many other amazing youth volunteers. I loved hearing their stories and taking tips and ideas from them on how their organizations have become successful.

Like me, they believe that the importance of youth involvement in fighting hunger is HUGE. When I began my organization at 8 years old, many people did not think it could accomplish as much as it did – not even me!  Anyone of any age can truly make a difference. My little food drive has since grown into an incredible food distribution network that provides food supplies to pantries that reach 5,000 families each month!

The Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship has also made a huge impact in my local community. The $5,000 grant helped Covenant Community Presbyterian Church’s Food Pantry provide for the growing number of families that they serve. Just during this summer, the food pantry’s attendance went from 80 families per month to 300 families per month. The food pantry remained stocked throughout the summer thanks to this grant and its freezer has also been filled with frozen meat thanks to Sodexo Foundation. 

If you are a student working to fight hunger, especially childhood hunger, I encourage you to apply for the Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship.  It was an experience of a lifetime to be invited to Washington, D.C. where I received $5,000 for my education and another $5,000 grant for my local food pantry. Our community efforts to fight hunger would not be where they are today without the help of Sodexo Foundation and the Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship.

Ending hunger might seem like an Olympic feat, but as more youth volunteers take up the torch, we are bound to meet the challenge.

Peyton Medick (9th Grade) is the founder of Peyton’s Promise and a 2012 Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient. Student volunteers fighting hunger can apply for the 2013 scholarship by visiting

Making Connections

By Rebecca Fawns
November 5th, 2012

Rebecca Fawns

Recently one 5th grader, Makayla, who participates in my Community Cooking Connections (CCC) program, told me how she takes home food each week to her grandmother and then helps teach her how to make a healthy meal for $2.00!  She said that really knowing how to shop, not just focusing on sales is a better strategy, it’s a lot more fun and it helps her eat better. She added that food banks help by giving “things” but learning to cook means she and her grandmother eat healthier no matter what food they have at home.

I’m so proud that a program I created is able to offer real-world lessons like this and help others in our area.

The Community Cooking Connections program is all about the important role youth can have in improving nutrition for young people in America.  Why do we let the youth run this program? Simple, the creativity that runs through youthful minds can help end hunger with a flare and lots of fun.

Community Cooking Connections has had a lot of support as well. I was recently selected as a Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient, which in addition to providing $5,000 for my education awarded a grant for $5,000 to CCC.

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Those funds helped the program encourage families to help each other and provided a community resource for sharing food with each other – especially the kids.

As one of the national winners of this award, I also received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. where I was able to meet with a number of fellow STOP Hunger Scholars – all doing amazing work.

Rebecca being presented with her scholarship by Sodexo chief operating officer and Education president, Lorna Donatone.

I would advise other students working to fight hunger to apply for this great scholarship, run by Sodexo Foundation. They are currently accepting applications through December 5, 2012.

It’s an amazing opportunity that allows you to help others recognize how vital it is for all of us to fight hunger in the United States. 

No child should go hungry – there is no reason for it.

The Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship offers one more way to help raise awareness about the issue and connect those in need to valuable resources.

When I think of committed youth like Makayla, sharing ideas with her grandmother, I’m convinced that their fresh ideas can make a difference in helping us solve the problem of hunger in the U.S.

Rebecca Fawns is the founder of Community Cooking Connections and a 2012 Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient. Student volunteers fighting hunger can apply for the 2013 award through December 5th by visiting

Extreme Couponing for a Good Cause

By Ben Baxter
October 25th, 2012

Ben Baxter

At a Morristown, New Jersey Community Soup Kitchen (CSK) Youth Council meeting, a peer suggested the idea of collecting coupons to extend the purchasing power of donated funds. Although I was the lead in this effort, our team of ten Bernardsville Middle School students collaborated on the EXTREME COUPONING idea to get more “bang for our buck.”

This project and its experience were real eye-openers for me because I never fully realized how essential food donations were to CSK. After four years on CSK’s Youth Council and a 2011 trip to Ethiopia, a Third World country, I finally grasped HUNGER’s vast impact, not only in Morristown, our regional community, but also throughout the world. With input from fellow Youth Council members, I applied for and won the $500 Sodexo YSA monetary grant to augment our group’s impact.

We hope our Coupons Cubed project will serve as a springboard for future soup kitchen fundraisers; engaging community members and business owners may make for a win-win situation for other organizations as well. All in all, being part of the great GOOD done at the soup kitchen really pushed my peers and me to attempt great things, too, and we did make a difference.


Ben Baxter and his middle school class received a Sodexo Foundation Youth Grant from YSA (Youth Service America) to support their community project on Global Youth Service Day 2012. To date, Sodexo Foundation has awarded 127 grants for youth-led service projects addressing childhood hunger. Grant applications are open now; learn more at

Fighting Hunger in Chicagoland

By Emily Scammell
August 7th, 2012

Emily Scammell

Based out of a small, first-floor kitchen on the corner of Northwestern’s sprawling campus, the staff and volunteers of The Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University (CKNU) are working to make and deliver meals to close to 22,000 individuals in Evanston as part of this summer’s Feeding Our Future® program.  From busy summer camps with underprivileged children to packed homeless shelters with hungry residents, CKNU works hard to provide food to those who need it the most.

As a volunteer for CKNU this summer, I had a chance to gain an in depth look into the needs of the community and how CKNU was helping to fill it.  In addition to providing meals to children, the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University and its volunteers are able to form a special connection to the people we serve and provide more than any meal could: companionship and compassion.  In this sense, our efforts are not just about making meals, but creating a hopeful future for our clients.  In recent weeks we have been lucky to be able to participate in a Feeding Our Future nutritional education event, with the Sodexo team at Northwestern University and Unilever, in helping to cultivate healthy choices in our youngest generation.

On July 24th at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, amongst 125 eager children and volunteers, we played nutrition-focused games – taste-testing whole grains and exotic fruits, and becoming “food scientists”, the children participating were able to gain an understanding of what essential nutrients will sustain their minds and bodies for healthy lives. 

Sodexo, Northwestern & Campus Kitchens "Feeding our Future." Click on the photograph for more images from the event.

By providing meals and being proactive in the community, CKNU hopes to establish a foundation for each child to create a rich and meaningful life.  However, without the ever-present support and contributions from Sodexo Foundation, Unilever, and the Sodexo team at NU, none of our efforts would be possible.  Their enthusiasm for their hunger-fighting efforts and dedication to nutritional education not only help us to continue to provide meals, but give the children we serve an excitement and energy for healthy living.

Much like Sodexo Foundation’s summer feeding program name, we are eager in not only “Feeding Our Future” in a physical sense, but in an emotional and cognitive manner, giving kids the tools they need for a wholesome childhood.

Emily Scammell is a rising senior and president of the Campus Kitchen at Auburn University. Emily is serving as an Americorps VISTA for the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University during the Feeding Our Future summer program. 

Mineola Macaroni: Making a Difference

By Nancy Regan
May 29th, 2012

Nancy Regan

Thanks to Sodexo Foundation and YSA (Youth Service America), the students in my AP United States History Class at Mineola High School have been fortunate to participate in an extended service-learning program focusing on raising awareness and helping to fight the growing problem of childhood hunger.

The program, based at our school in New York, involved the students tracing the history of hunger in America and researching the depths of the problem in today’s society. The tables then turned, with the students actually teaching a number of 8th grade classes about their research and enlisting the 8th graders help in their service efforts.

There were two service initiatives. The first was a district-wide food drive to benefit Long Island Cares. During the week-long drive, 2,000 non-perishable food items were collected. Students developed innovative ways including “extreme couponing” to gather as much food as possible for donation.

The second, our largest initiative was called Mineola Macaroni Making a Difference. This was a Pasta Dinner to benefit the Mary Brennan Inn, the largest soup kitchen on Long Island which serves around 400 hot meals per day. Mineola Macaroni: Making a Difference was held on Thursday, March 29th. It was a huge success. Over 300 people attended and the students raised over $2,700.

Students at Mineola High School focused on raising awareness of childhood hunger and helping to fight the epidemic as well.

The students together with the faculty volunteers cooked and served dinner, displayed their research, and facilitated mini service projects during the evening. Working on this project and seeing the enthusiasm and dedication of my students to our efforts was one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career. We truly became a school community working together for the greater good and our community really supported our efforts. My students’ reflections illustrate the impact of the project and the importance of service-learning:

“I loved being a part of the project. I never knew how good it could feel to spend your time and energy to help a cause that you feel very strongly about. My eyes are opened… I hope to volunteer for the rest of my life!” Katie

“It was incredible being part of this long-term project and its fantastic results. “I never saw a group of high school students do anything like this. It was at this moment that I realized just how much I had contributed to something that really made a difference. It was something to really be proud of.”  Jill

“I’m inspired to continue to make the world a better place.” Janet

Students like Katie, Jill and Janet have inspired us all.

Nancy Regan is a social studies teacher at Minneola High School Garden City Park – a Sodexo Foundation School Engagement Grant Recipient.

Giving Back to the Communities We Serve

By Dr. Rohini Anand, Ph.D
May 15th, 2012

Dr. Rohini Anand, Ph.D

Sodexo’s annual Servathon brings together thousands of Sodexo employees to raise money, donate food, and serve meals in their local communities. This year I had the opportunity to participate in three very different Servathon events.  I joined Sodexo employees in Seattle at the Food Lifeline Food bank to pack cartons of corn – in one afternoon we packed over 77,000 lbs. of corn, a new record for the food bank! 

During that event I had the opportunity to meet Blaine Hirai, our partner from Hirai Farms, who donates over 1 Million pounds of locally grown produce every year. Most recently he donated 22,000 lbs. of potatoes to the Manna Food bank in Maryland.  Blaine also oversees the non-profit organization “Annie’s Fun” which was named for his mother and seeks to help those in need.  Annie’s Fun, in partnership with Sodexo, packed and donated 5 million pounds of food and rose over $100,000 for hunger relief.  Blaine, you are truly a champion for the hungry and it is an honor doing business with you! 

While I was in Seattle, the Sodexo Office of Diversity team was hosting its own Servathon event – a mini-food drive! While our office may not have a lot of people, everyone contributed and we were able to make a huge impact.  In just three days we compiled nearly 200 kid-friendly food items! 

The Sodexo Diversity & Inclusion team volunteering during Sodexo Servathon. Click on the photograph for a slide show of this worthwhile and rewarding event.

Most recently, the Office of Diversity team along with the Office of Sustainability joined forces with Women Who Care, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in need overcome hunger, domestic violence, homelessness and substance abuse. The Sodexo team spent a morning packing over 1,000 backpacks of food for local children at risk of hunger on the weekends. It was fantastic to step outside of our normal routine and make a contribution to the larger community.  Special thanks to Judith Clark and the Women Who Care staff for making our visit so memorable and impactful – you do amazing work and we were proud to be a part of it for the day!

Giving back to the communities we serve is so important – I am proud to be part of an organization that supports and encourages involvement at all levels in the fight against hunger!        

Dr. Rohini Anand is the senior vice president and global chief diversity officer at Sodexo.